Critique of “Do Parents Really Matter”

Here’s Brian’s article.

https://life.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/take-two-babies/

 

And here’s my response, Q & A style:

 

Do parents really matter?

Everything we thought we knew about how personality is formed is wrong

CULTURE

Brian Boutwell

14 Jun 2017

Jeff in blue, in italics.

Here’s an experiment. I wanted to read this article through, and maybe critique it if it really was something in my crosshairs, but I had that first answer below immediately, so then it occurred that that was the way to tackle it, point by point, logical step by step, in real time, during my first read, see where Brian takes me.

Brian in black, in Georgia.

Parenting does not have a large impact on how children turn out.

I’m sorry, I’m gonna stop you right there. How is that possibly true when some parents have killed their children, beaten them to death? Is “bad stuff” exempt from your science? May I guess? The dead ones are deemed not to have turned out at all and therefore don’t meet study criteria?

An incendiary claim, to be sure, but if you can bear with me until the close of this article I think I might be able to persuade you — or at the very least chip away at your certainty about parental influence.

 . . . this I imagine, for the right and lofty goal of convincing parents that their abuse doesn’t work anyway, that they can give it up? That is a takeaway worth trying to create. Kudos.

First, what if later today the phone were to ring and the voice at the other end informed you that you have an identical twin. You would have lived your entire life up to that point not realising that you had a clone. The bearer of this news says arrangements have been made to reunite you with your long-lost sibling. In something of a daze, you assent, realising as you hang up that you’ve just agreed to meet a perfect stranger.

 

There was a time when separating identical twins at birth, while infrequent, did happen thanks to the harsh nature of adoption systems. One of the people who helped reunite many of them was the great psychologist Thomas Bouchard. I first read about Professor Bouchard’s work, wonderfully described by the psychologist Nancy Segal, when I was a graduate student. I still think about it often. What would it be like to live a large chunk of my life not knowing that I had a twin, and then meet him as an adult? Would our conversations ever go beyond polite small talk about the weather, sport or current events?

 

I’m sure similar thoughts went through the minds of the people in Bouchard’s study, and yet person after person realised — happily, I suspect — that they had a lot in common with the image of themselves sitting across the table. Their characters were often remarkably in step, as were their intellects, their behaviours, even their hobbies and eccentricities. The similarities often ran deep, cutting to the bone of their beliefs and their morality.

 

Our intuition sometimes seems to testify against the work of Bouchard and his team.

There’s a world of dialogue available here: are we sure that voice is our intuition? Have brain scans shown the intuition lobe to light up when people fixate on the power of nurture? (I have a new idea about where that voice comes from, please ask.) And ‘against the work?’ You mean against the conclusions they’re hearing from the work, right?

The emphasis on nurture dictates that identical twins, reared apart and reunited later in life, should not be all that similar.

I’ve heard it that way many times, but “the emphasis” doesn’t require that we think nurture has the lion’s share of the power – only that we know that it’s the only power we have for influence, however small it is. IRL, once you have your children, the genetics of the matter have been settled, and nurture is all we have left. So, sure, we exaggerate our influence, but the “importance” of our ability to nurture is irrelevant. If we think we have a single percent of influence, we are obliged to attempt it. With that reality check, you sound a little like you’re suggesting we abdicate all responsibility for teaching our children: we already know how little power we have, we are using all our energy to leverage any small chance we have to influence – and you’re here telling us, no, don’t bother doing what we can, it’s not enough anyway . . . again, that’s what it can sound like if it’s not this: you can’t influence them, so stop beating them.

Because if I am beating my children, and you tell me what I do doesn’t matter, then I want to agree, don’t I? And guess what else? Ninety-five percent of Americans are. Corporal punishment hasn’t dried up and blown away, so one step more brutal: are you telling parents who “spank” that what they do doesn’t matter? This is your mission in life? I tell you, if you do not clarify this, you are tacitly supporting the existing system, corporal punishment. This is why I’ve felt obliged to fight you.

 

And yet they are. Contrastingly, adopted children who share no distinguishing DNA with one another but are raised together should be quite similar.

It bears repeating, if yours did, I guess: parents don’t think nurture is where the most power is, they only know that it’s the only little power they have. If the families of these separated twins raised the twins to be normal, reasonably happy people, they wouldn’t be hurt to know they turned out identical, they, like all parents would just be happy their kids didn’t wind up in prison or mental institutions.

 

Yet they are not, and this poses some problems for traditional ideas about how parents shape children.

Mostly for the authors of parenting books, I imagine.

It’s not just Bouchard’s work that suggests parents have less influence than we think. Decades of research into behavioural genetics — twin studies, family studies and the adoption and identical-twin stories I have already mentioned — all point in the same direction. The shared environment, the experiences that create similarities between siblings raised together — the part of the environment that most often captures parenting influences — are all secondary when it comes to personality, behaviour or intelligence. What’s more, my own work as a criminologist, and that of my colleagues, has revealed the same pattern of findings when applied to violence, antisocial behaviour and crime.

OK, up to this point I’ve kept my answers in the old world, within your conversation, to some degree, but to answer this, we may have to leave your world and enter mine. In my world, nurture has more power, but in my world, parenting is not a purely positive influence: beatings have power. Abuse is where the power of “nurturing” is, and where the evidence is that parenting damned well does matter. Unfortunately, as per your main point, parents all seem to think they have this power and the obligation to use it, so there is no control group for parental abuse. Who wasn’t punished, who wasn’t spanked, whose parents didn’t believe this?

A note regarding corporal punishment: it’s a dodge. If a child misbehaves and we decide to spank him, that’s corporal punishment, the pain is the penalty. If, however, a child misbehaves and we decide he must do the dishes for his error, and he refuses, and an argument ensues and a fight results to impose the dishes penalty, and the child gets hit (not for the original offense, but for this new insubordination, I guess), then that is technically not “corporal punishment” (at least of the first offense). I respectfully suggest to all concerned that the child’s biology doesn’t appreciate the difference.

The upshot here, is of course, is abuse not a part of “ . . . the shared environment, the experiences that create similarities between siblings raised together — the part of the environment that most often captures parenting influences”?

It is my contention that it is indeed abuse that proves the power of “nurturing,” and that this is the reason for our “nurture assumption,” because when we beat a child, especially regularly, we see changes. Again, for a perfectly normal, moral and intelligent person to say, “parenting doesn’t matter” can only mean that parenting is defined as abuse free, which – epic fail, I’m sorry. This mistake on the part of a century’s socialization researchers is a classic. We think it’s here, so we’re looking here. A century later, parental influence doesn’t exist because we didn’t find it here, the only place we ever looked. And biology, in the form of one Brian Boutwell among others, has apparently accepted this mistake.

No blame, there is a strong, perhaps species wide self deception in place. We made this difficult for ourselves on purpose: nurture/child abuse is a protected behaviour. We aren’t supposed to see it.

 

This apparent puzzle (which is something of a scientific heresy) becomes clearer if we accept that genetic factors play an important role in making us who we are. Yes, the environment matters, but not just the environment that the child experiences in the home. The environment in this sense is far more nebulous and hard to nail down — behavioural geneticists call it the ‘non-shared’ environment and it includes anything that causes two siblings to be different from each other.

It is indeed hard to nail down, and it’s a point that they certainly hadn’t nailed it down during the twin studies, where it seems the different homes were supposed to be different environments, but along no particular vector, in some unknown, “families are all different” way that really had no detail, it was a black boxing exercise.

 

And I really mean anything. The psychologist Steven Pinker puts it this way: ‘A cosmic ray mutates a stretch of DNA, a neurotransmitter zigs instead of zags, the growth cone of an axon goes left instead of right, and one identical twin’s brain might gel into a slightly different configuration from the other’s.’ In other words, we should not presume that random chance plays a vanishingly small role in making us the people that we are today.

 

Beyond the randomness of life, we already have a window on to what parts of culture children are swayed by. Both Pinker and the psychologist Judith Rich Harris remind us that the children of immigrants adopt and speak with the accent and language of their peers. The movies people watch, the music we listen to, and much else that we’d put under the general heading of ‘culture’ are deeply affected by our peers. What else would you expect, really? Wanting and needing to fit in is not just a passing phase of childhood. To some extent, it’s essential for living.

 

So ‘the environment’ does play a role in shaping who we are, but it’s not ‘the environment’ in merely the conventional sense of how your folks parent you and your siblings.

The children’s peer group changes nothing regarding abuse. Allowing the children to abuse one another counts as parental abuse and/or neglect. The children’s stress is not smaller because it’s the older kids who will beat him into conformity rather than the parents. In fact, gene theory says the children have less reason not to finish him off, whereas the parents may think about their genes.

 

All of this is indicative of something deeper — an aspect which is less arcane and more relevant to daily life. A great many pundits, advice givers, and professional psychologists have spent decades being wrong about why people turn out the way they do.

 . . . and I have found it. Not “why they turn out the way they do” in terms of small differences, the twins who shared flushing the toilet before and after, these sorts of traits, but I’m pretty sure I’ve found your “something deeper,” the real mystery that these problematically powerless questions are trying to get at. Again, a protected behaviour, so within its logic, we can’t pose the right questions to crack the code; I came to it the long way around, very much by accident. Turns out it’s analogous to dark matter, invisible (that “nurture” means beatings and that “good people” means warriors, this, the core of what I call Antisocialization Theory, is sort of invisible), but comprising ninety percent of the matter in the universe. Ninety percent of our abuse is non-statutory and so invisible, and ninety percent of our social lives are lived in both halves of the causal realm around it, we abuse, and we are hurt, abused creatures, nine times more than we are happy, healthy ones. This is the ratio R. D. Laing was pointing us to when he said that “the disaster has already happened.”

When we start to see how the dark matter of generic, non-statutory abuse distorts and bends what we can see, the visible light in the universe, when we factor all that dark matter in, we will see our calculations making ten times more sense.

 

A child is not a blank canvas.

No, but the child is what it is, the point is what we paint and how we attempt to paint it, despite whether there was already a picture there or not. Not being “a blank canvass” hasn’t saved any kids their beatings, has it? The religious don’t think Blank Slate, doesn’t stop them. Biologists don’t think Blank Slate – has it stopped you? (I know your complaint. Blank Slaters are indeed guilty of child abuse, being one didn’t save kids either, and some of the abuse was in trying to eradicate some built-in natural thing because of the BS idea, but this is one of the ways the conversation needs to change to deal with the negative reality of what “nurture” really has been.)

How many books have been written about the way people should and should not parent their children? How many approaches have been suggested by experts who are not really in a position to know? Yes, they may hold advanced degrees, but the truth is that the advice they offer tends to ignore the genetic influences that we now know to be at work. The studies that identify those influences often find that parenting — unless it is actually malign — has very little impact on how children turn out. The huge ‘parenting advice’ industry is largely bunkum.

OK, so there it is, the exemption, “ . . . unless it is actually (malicious) . . . “

So, you do get that, it’s maybe you’re just a positive guy, you assume that malignancy is rare or something. It is getting more so, and that is terrific (also per Pinker), but that is putting the aboriginal truth of this situation further out of view: rare now is not meaningful as to why it never has been rare before, not useful in understanding just what this behaviour really is that we’re hoping to escape.

 

What does this mean for you if you’re a parent wanting to know how to raise a happy, well-adjusted child? I generally loathe parenting advice columns, so that is not what is on offer here. I can sympathise with the idea that having a child brings with it a host of responsibilities that are exciting but also terrifying.

 

At this point, I would turn again to the psychologist Judith Rich Harris, who authored the definitive book on this subject. Harris writes: ‘We may not hold their tomorrows in our hands but we surely hold their todays, and we have the power to make their todays very miserable.’

 

Pinker, meanwhile, makes the point that it should be enough for us to remember that our children are human beings, worthy of the same ethical treatment we give to our friends, other relatives, and even to strangers. So protect your children, provide for them, be good to them, and make memories with them. Apart from that, don’t expect to have very much say in how they turn out.

Hey, that’s getting better, Brian! You gave ‘em the hint. I can’t help but wonder if you’ve been reading me, or if for some other reason you felt you needed to do more than the Rockwell version after the first one of these that I saw. Whatever, you’re trending in a direction I can approve of, well done.

As for parenting advice, I agree, but I think I have a solid reason now. Parents should keep in mind that discipline makes warriors and out of work warriors are what we call criminals.

Jeff

June 15th., 2017

Consequences. The “Mimic Meme.”

I’m searching for a term, and I must apologize to any readers who have suffered through this with me: Dawkins’ “meme” is not it, that’s only part of the concept I require. Sorry to admit this, but I finally looked it up yesterday: Dawkins’, Blackmore’s, Dennett’s memes are simply ideas and such imbued with a life of their own with us as their environment. It’s about transmission and propagation, the suggestion being that ideas and such can be viewed as propagating themselves, and the analogy is with genes, and how our genes propagate themselves. If anything, what I am trying to articulate actually runs counter to that. If I’ve been impossible to understand it’s because I’ve made a terrible error by misappropriating the “meme” concept. My “meme” will show us to be the active agent in its transmission – even if we don’t know it. But the concept I need to give a name to is something like a “mimic meme,” a successful, dominant wolf meme that propagates itself in the guise of a sheep.
The “consequences” parenting social construct is certainly a dominant meme, nearly universal. It’s the idea that we can alter minds and behaviour with punishments, and that we must, or at least should, that it’s “how we learn.” Wait, too soon, too specific. A simple example of the mimic meme:
. . . researching . . .
Stop that or you’ll go blind? Wait, what’s the real reason? *
Ah. Maybe in other religious injunctions, like pork.
It’s not kosher or halal to eat pork, and one is to understand that some patriarch delivered the law direct from God, and so, many people in the Abrahamic traditions don’t eat pork (or other things), based on their religion, so maybe “God’s people don’t eat pork” is the meme that stops them – but we think there’s a real world reason too, the one that the religious injunction is situated on top of, when I was young it was worms, trichinosis. I’ve since read somewhere that the shade on pigs was government libel and slander, that nations have no use for pigs, they can’t be managed and used as easily as goats or sheep, that pigs were private, poor peoples’ livestock and the campaign against them was part of a (an Egyptian) government promotion of more industry friendly animals during their massive foreign labour building projects. These are all memes, and the truth of the matter may be none of them, but it shows the idea, a cover rationale – authority, God says, or identity, God’s people don’t – that has the effect of keeping pork out of mouths, and a real-world effect, people not getting worms, sheep taking over the world, that results from it.
Does that work?
Now that must be a known thing, certainly that story is a known one, so the concept must have a name already, right? If anyone knows it, please, remind me. It’s something like evolutionary convergence, isn’t it, where memes take completely different paths to produce the same effect? I need the word to say that these memes are true and these ones are merely expedient. I think the relativism around these ideas has all memes as expedient and truth as an irrelevant ideal, but we still need a word to differentiate the ones we’ve seen through from the ones we have not yet pierced.
I think maybe “mimic meme,” for now, pending my future education.
Or maybe I’m coining the term right now, in real time. I keep thinking I’m decades behind in all this, but as this latest error shows, sometimes I’m giving academia too much credit; I thought Dawkins’ meme was something more complicated than it really is, I assumed he was way ahead of me. As it really, is, the “meme” idea is now a no brainer, a basic building block of understanding the world. So, for all I know, the mimic meme really did need naming, I mean if the basic “meme” did. I keep letting my low self esteem get in the way of my low esteem of everyone else, but logically, just because I’m slow doesn’t mean everyone else isn’t too. Maybe the world really is in such a pitiable state that a nobody like me can have something to contribute.
So. On the off chance, here’s the mimic meme concept: sometimes we have a bogus story to explain our behaviour that is unrelated to the behaviour’s actual function, and as long as the behaviour is maintained, so is the function, despite our ignorance of what is really going on, of what in the function is meaningful. Read your Bible, remain worm free.
Ha! Now they’re coming up for me, and if “because I said so” isn’t the model for all of the mimic memes to follow, then . . . well, of course, “because I said so” isn’t what we’re supposed to learn about touching the stove or stepping into the street, of course it isn’t the real “reason” not to do those things, but it’s intended to have the same effect as the real reasons, namely keeping us away from the stove and the street. That’s a mimic meme for kids, I guess, because it’s one we learn our way out of as we grow up, or mostly, anyways.
But the consequences mimic meme, that’s one we don’t apparently grow out of.
It’s at the heart of what I’ve labelled Antisocialization Theory, my grand unification theory of abuse. Here it is again, one iteration of the text of the consequences mimic meme:
We can alter minds and behaviour with punishments, and we must, or at least we should, that it’s “how we learn.”
One observable effect of this meme is that humans beat their children, in an organized and social way. (Oh, shut up, we do too. At least we have been doing, for a long time. If there are epigenetic changes in response to abuse, and there are, then abuse has been around for a long time, it’s in our genome.)
The true function – “bio meme?” I can’t start that yet, can I? – would have some same effect, that we beat our children “regularly,” as per the old political trap/joke, in this case. All that remains to dissect this entire mimic is the true function of these beatings, in evolutionary terms – and what other kind are there – the reproductive advantage to our genes. This answer I deem to have been hidden to date, rendered invisible by the mimic meme sometime in our past. The trick of the mimic meme is to make it so . . . you can’t get there from here.
But you can get there from psychology, from social science.
Come over to the office, stretch out on the couch, and tell me: how did zees beatings make you feel?
Ah! That was it, the very instant, did you feel it? That was the moment in time when social science first had the creeping thought to stop playing coy, stop running for real and see what happens when that dirty boy, biology, catches her. I fancy that I, like Einstein, have reconciled two incompatible lines of thought, that I can see convergence, where social science and its subjects have their place in the biosphere and geneticists don’t need to avoid talk of the agency of entire organisms.
Back to Earth, or almost, social science has some pretty robust data regarding statutory abuse, and much of it includes parentage too: the documented effects and costs of child abuse appear to be safe from the attacks of the geneticists, at least from the attacks I’ve read, and I think we can pretty much agree: the parental/caregiver effects that we do see and see the science to match them with are the effects of abuse, of what we term the damages of abuse, all of the varieties, physical, emotional, cognitive, etc., etc. There are things that look bad about this “damages of abuse” meme also, and I have written and will continue to point out the things that look bad from my particular point of view about it, but we can just face this, can’t we: you beat a human child, especially regularly, and social science has established that there will be effects. More later, this is huge, but this is what we need to carry across our cognitive dissonance back to the social/biological conversation we’re having about the consequences mimic meme: documented effects of child-beating, which have always been, since Gershoff, Durrant, et al., increased incidence of: developmental problems, cognitive problems (poor grades in school), addictions, violence, crime, self harm, and all manner of disorders.
There is a confound, that what is “statutory” is not peer reviewed science, but it’s also clear that more children are beaten than there are parents busted for it. In a discussion of science, we all need to know we’re talking about biology when we say “beatings” and not law, that it’s a physical definition of “beating” I’m using and not some higher-level abstraction about it, including the threshold required for action by the law. The truth behind these statistics is better than the statistics can ever be. So now, again, the reproductive advantage gained from this human behaviour, from these clearly “negative social effects?”
Here I will respectfully suggest that “increased incidence of violence’’ is only a bad thing for your enemies generally, and that this is where the advantage is to be found: not so much in the mate market as on the battlefield.
This increase played out most tellingly in our species’ developing situation, with our little human or proto-human troop in sometimes violent competition with the neighbors, and plays out forever in our aboriginal, hunter gatherer groups and today in our larger, more complex ones. From long experience, and I hope not to insult anyone, but I feel the need to stop and remind us all at this point that we’ve said nothing new, nothing extraordinary here, in fact nothing controversial. This is all still in the realms of ‘everyone knows’ and ‘scientists know.’ Let’s recap.
1. We all know the “consequences” meme, humans raise their kids with it
2. The meme has us all hitting our kids (maybe until now)
3. Hitting kids has known effects, among which are antisocial behaviours, violence, and crime
4. Persistent, selected for behaviours (meaning, humans hitting their kids, documented since at least the Bronze Age) should have a net reproductive advantage, or be tied to one
5. There is a majority consensus among scientists that something in that scenario, our long, aboriginal group competitions was what created our outsized craniums and all that goes with it
I imagine the ways in which “aggression” gives organisms a reproductive advantage are well documented, so that I shouldn’t have to show how “an increased incidence” of it (by any other name) would bring an “increased incidence” of its advantages. Suffice to say, we have probably not out-competed the rest of the apes by being nicer than them, and deep roots of war or not, there have been battles and many lines have not survived. Never mind the apes, there are at least five human species that have disappeared just in the last fifty thousand years, and those are only the ones where we’ve found the bodies. And yes, for the biologists, it does suggest a tournament sort of mindset, groups in competition, driving one another to be stronger, by any and all means. Including, and this is the central thing here: creating abuse where there was none in order to leverage our epigenetic response to it. The deep roots of war thing is not a given, it is an option that we exercise.
I’m not sure anyone has considered this piece of the puzzle, our conscious, very much active role in creating our own natures in this way.
I’ve seen it the other way around, war causing stress, causing an horrific documented rise in abuse of all sorts, parental included – as though something other than humanity were imposing this war business on us, as though culture created Man, as though the causality in it all were exactly backwards, as though the chicken came before the egg. Which, by the way, is not a riddle to a biologist, to someone who believes in evolution, someone who knows that there weren’t always chickens.
It seems self evident to me, that the increased violence and antisocial feelings and behaviour are the most likely relevant effects that the consequences mimic meme supports and camouflages by having us beat our children “to teach them manners.” To point out the disparity, what the mimic meme means, note that if one beating doesn’t create the manners we wanted, and if ten doesn’t either, then our consequences don’t work to teach manners – but to keep trying is not pointless, not to the true function. The kid may never say his ‘please and thank you’s, but if you persist, the true function will be accomplished, at least at a far greater frequency than the false one. **
Again, the true function being to produce antisocial feelings, much of what we WEIRD folks today think of as our damage, the negative outcomes we associate with abuse. To understand it, we need to imagine our evolving proto-human and aboriginal situation, the one we evolved in and for, before we found a way to live among thousands and millions of strangers in relative safety. I found the clue in The Nurture Assumption, something Harris had gleaned regarding primitive warrior societies, that while making her point about the children’s group being the relevant social group, where society is taught and learned, she told of how passive boys are teased and goaded to fight, to the point of being killed if they never do fight back. Aboriginal warrior society groups are small, and all the men are warriors, there are no resources for slackers. Violence is always the cure for a lack of it, and fight or die as a passive kid will have to do, there are no slackers and the tribe is strong.
That’s not the consequences meme in action, but it proves the point that abuse is how you make a soldier of a human who isn’t one, or enough of one, and that is antisocialization. It works straight up like that too, it doesn’t require self deceptions or unconsciousness, it only requires the beatings. The mimic meme, that just prevents us from stopping it even when our goals have changed, keeps the behaviour safe from tampering by our fickle, conscious minds. (Probably for the solid reason that just because my family, my group sees it and decides to stop – and I did in fact – doesn’t mean the neighbors all had the same insight at once. This would amount to a lethal meme mutation, perhaps.)
I am imagining that our goals are changing, have changed, at least most of ours. I think it’s time, since many of our goals are moving already, to examine in what realm and direction it is we are hoping to move. I know my personal parenting goals changed long before I had worked out what the “normal” parenting practises were in support of. I offer this insight, my view, for knowledge, for posterity, not because I have a plan for us, not because I think we should change what we’re doing now, but just to put it out there, get it into our heads, and maybe in small ways, maybe a little more often we start to remember that abuse in any measure is to make us soldiers in some measure, and that it really isn’t necessary to show a kid how the toilet works.
Maybe when we see the horribly antisocial act of some criminal, we can stop imagining that society did not nearly intentionally mandate that the criminal and all of us be antisocial to some degree, and consider that rather than that our parenting and social efforts upon them have failed, that our conflicting efforts to antisocialize them have simply succeeded too well. I’m sure a case can be made for the selection of berserkers, that until we WEIRDs took over, they had their place in our aboriginal societies, in our warrior cultures.
When a better meme inhabits our minds, things will begin to make sense. I imagine, if the idea can even get started (it’s probably a lethal mutation, so possibly unlikely), then we’ll have a better idea what to do about it in another generation or two.
I feel I’d be somehow lying to us all if I don’t address this about it, the non-viable mutation aspect.
This stuff is dangerous.
I’m not a hundred percent sure of this, but the existence of this pervasive meme suggests it’s something that we at least think is mission critical, that our child-beating behaviour is something we have set up and then built this protective cover over, because it’s a survival mechanism, one we at least think we shouldn’t have access to, like we think elected officials shouldn’t have the power to change voting laws. Any human group who thinks to stop doing it is at dire risk from the neighbors who have not, we think, so the human groups who are still here to talk about it have locked that door and lost the key. Forbidden fruit, this sort of self-knowledge? Perhaps. Again, an obfuscating meme that protects a behaviour that controls for aggression – and this is what I’m trying to describe – there is some lifetime achievement Darwin hubris award for the fellow who messes that up, isn’t there?
OK, fine. I’ll do it.
Hold my beer.

Jeff
Updated,
June 7th., 2017
* I guess biology does offer one. We say “stop that or you’ll go blind,” and if any of us do stop, then even more young ladies get pregnant, maybe.
** insert a rapidly growing list of epigenetic effects that function based in adversity of environment in childhood, and the general idea of genetics and epigenetics somewhere in here. I’ve considered it as a given.

The Abusive Ape Theory, in Pill Form

I’m a moron, because it took me my entire fucking life to figure it out, but I’m going to see if I can fit it into a tweet.

The “consequences” parenting construct is the child-rearing model for warrior societies, possibly meaning for human societies, albeit with exceptions. The efficacy of our consequences has always been debatable, but the evidence of the effects of abuse are clear, and it is these effects that human parents can and do create in our children. This is the power of nurturing and of parenting. This process I call antisocialization, our socialization to the dark side of things, our fears, our hate, and our violence. The truth behind the “consequences” social meme is that we are self-actualized warriors, that we discipline our children for reasons that some of our fathers told us: we deem ourselves to be too nice, and we have learned that abuse toughens us up. In genetic terms, we have learned to operate our own epigenetic levers, the ones that respond to adverse, abusive environments. Antisocialization Theory says that Christian Original Sin is a part of the “consequences” social construct and that in reality, humans know themselves to be too nice by our natures to compete with the neighbors, that indeed, we are born sinless.

Jeff

May 19th., 2017

It’s a Child’s World

. . . yeah, I probably don’t mean that the way you’d think.

This isn’t that the children are our future, or that we are only renting here and giving up our damage deposit when that was supposed to be for them instead. I’m talking, as usual perhaps, about the Nurture Assumption, and today more about the book by Judith Rich Harris than the assumption itself.

Ms. Rich Harris has the most wonderful writing voice. I imagine any man or reasonably flexible woman who has read her has fallen in love; I certainly did. So, the nurture assumption, that we all assume that we mould our children somehow into acceptable adults is the primary proposition in the book, but it is perhaps the second largest point in it that it seems to be our childhood peer group that moulds our personalities instead. Now, I’m ignorantly arrogant and suspicious, so I haven’t quite made my mind up about that bit just yet, there may be more to it, but if it’s true, or mostly true – and it is, at least mostly – then human culture is children’s culture, right? Or rather, human culture is developmentally arrested at some point in childhood.

Ladies, I have to ask – does this strike a chord, a feminist chord? Haven’t you always known you’re up against grown men’s bodies inhabited by the souls of angry young boys?

The basic, aboriginal scenario she described (from many years of reading and writing textbooks on the subject) is a village of sixty to a hundred and sixty people, perhaps three main family lines, and mothers having babies every two or three years – at which point the previous child is weaned and let outside to join the children’s group. Here, we learn and grow, and graduate to have our own children. Adult personality testing shows our grown personalities to show far more conformity with the children’s peer group than with our parents.

Sometimes if we’ve only just heard this, I imagine it takes a second to sink in, but another way to state the scenario Rich Harris describes (I don’t think she put it this way), is this: we are somehow immune to intergenerational learning and we mostly don’t know a thing that every child doesn’t know. Maybe we can learn throughout our lives (I hope so, I’m about to retire and planning to keep trying), but our ability to pass it on to children is severely impeded once we are of breeding age ourselves!

Now, I think that’s a sort of an argument for a general cause to support some vague idea of our adult “children’s culture,” but I have something of my own to add, namely that the means and ways of this “influence” and “socialization” that happens in the children’s group happen to be the same ways and means that parents are so valiantly trying to justify with the nurture assumption: abuse. Abuse in a generic sort of sense, sure, but in all senses.

We can say that parents use rough methods at home and that the children perhaps emulate, or we can say that the parents have only just exited the children’s group where that was the way of life as well, the ways and means of conformity and organization, and that they simply carry on as they always have in the group, albeit with younger children for perhaps the first time. It’s a circle of life sort of thing. Personally, I have chosen to blame the parents for this vicious cycle, because for the most part they are older and closer to some definition of legal responsibility – but also, because we have been trying to get the kids to stop hitting each other for years already and that just isn’t working out! I think we should try stopping the adults, see if that works better.

That was a bit of me, but really, that is the implication of the children’s peer group, has to be, right? That the social pressure during our formative years, that the society this testing shows we conform to is the society of pre-pubescents. There’s a nibble for the biologists in it, too. Part of the theory is that your parents aren’t so likely to beat you to death as the peer group is, because the gene relation is closer, so that we conform to the bigger threat, the more realistic threat. The Nurture Assumption spelled it out graphically in terms of hunter-gatherer warrior societies, where if a boy won’t fight, he is tormented until he either fights back or is killed. One presumes there are very few adult pacifists.

Perhaps it’s not so sad that we are living a life designed and enforced by children because of their inexperience, but rather that the structure of our society is formed from experience that includes a lot of boyish competition and violence. I’m not sure about that, and this is absolutely a thought in progress . . . I’m postulating this, the eternal children’s group and the associated adult “children’s culture” – and a different, first generation adult culture in every generation? Again, we can learn, it’s only that adults can’t teach kids, at least not social things. But the eternal, timeless children’s culture of might is right (and sex doesn’t matter?), the unconscious side of our culture, and the adult side where things change and evolve . . . ?

I think I’ve taken this as far as I can . . .

Cheers, folks.

Thoughts?

 

Jeff

April 28th., 2017

Next Question?

            Next Question?

 

The last one took me something more than fifty years, admittedly. I am a moron, no two ways about it. But I got there, and frankly, I’m, well . . . proud might be a bridge too far, and happy isn’t it either, but I’m . . . satisfied. In that sense, I declare myself to be a scientist, albeit a moron. It’s not about my emotional needs or pride, it really is about the question. The question for me, since I was a toddler or something, was “what is punishment?”

I’ve answered that to my own satisfaction, and it’s in my blog, the stuff from this year, 2017. Unfortunately, figuring something out about ourselves and being able to do anything about it are very different propositions. The solution seems to be locked away, hidden behind the dynamics of stress, and for a change, before I try to work through it in the privacy of my own mind and blog with a view to figuring it out in my final fifty years from nothing, I thought I’d better stop and read Sapolsky’s book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

He’s brought us a nasty little maxim, that stress results from taking a beating and is released by giving one. Again, I am a moron with no sense of my own limitations, so I don’t understand “maxim.” I see that label, “maxim,” (I don’t think he’s called it that) and double Scorpio that I am or whatever, I say to myself, it is up to me to solve this puzzle. I don’t know why, it’s to avoid thinking about my personal self and problems, of course, but I can’t get around it. I would rather think I’m trying to save the world and solve the human condition than that I’m doing something smaller and more doable and ignoring the big, universal problems. I’m living a big, public life, at least in my own mind.

So, I’ll be reading for a bit, trying to learn instead of talking for a bit. Dr. Robert Sapolsky is sure to have something to inform my search. He’s terrific on video too, I recommend him as highly as possible, as does everyone, from a moron like me all the way up to the very best and brightest. I’ll be checking in, but I see my views have stopped. I don’t have the heart to keep promoting on Twitter, punishing my few followers by spamming them with the same blogs for months on end with nothing new, so that will be sporadic unless I think I’ve had another epiphany or something.

Please enjoy this year’s stuff, the “Better Metaphor” series, etc.

The stuff from 2014 and 2015 is for parents, new parents, it says, “don’t punish, in any way, at all,” citing damage and hard feelings as unwanted consequences. This year’s stuff says, “uh, no, the damage and hard feelings are in fact the unconscious but wanted consequences,” and so re-defines the problem of punishment. I still don’t advocate for the punishment of children, I’ve just come to understand it’s not a rational, debating sort of a thing.

I’ll be back, and dropping in, but I think I’ve kind of run out of things to say for a bit, this was it. I’m not some writer, some endless spout of verbiage, I’m just a guy with a minority POV and an idea I think will help us, so I write that. I swear to God, it’s not about me. It’s about us. It ain’t personal, it’s about all of us; it’s public.

Thanks for visiting, Folks. I wish I could know what anyone thinks, though.

 

Jeff

April 20th., 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Reality. A Better Metaphor, Part Eight.

I’ve been going on about this idea, the social meme or metaphor, what Benjamin David Steele (https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/ @MarmaladeSteele ) calls a social parasite, although that sounds like a person. It’s a solid point, though, so perhaps it should be ‘parasitic social metaphor’ or something. That’s going to have to be close enough, because it’s these parasites that have their way with labels and not the other way around. I haven’t yet gotten back and read Dawkins’ definition myself, because the concept of the parasitic meme fills an irregularly shaped hole in our knowledge perfectly and so its shape seems to reveal itself; if you get what it does, then you see what it is. I don’t see how it couldn’t be real, or at least how the parasitic metaphor isn’t one of the better metaphors we have.

So, I think I’ve beaten the consequences meme into the ground in this series, ‘A Better Metaphor’ and today I would like to concentrate on the moral kernel of it. I think the world has turned on this “good and bad” thing.

I’ve talked around it a little maybe, but I’ve tried to say that the sort of “good” an organism can have beaten into it will be a response to what a beating is and not to what the organism delivering the beating may hope he’s achieving, meaning stress and pain and a need to either avoid them or at least unload the stress after the fact. Further to that, I’m trying to paint a picture of a near-universal human adaptation, that violence at home helps to support warrior societies against their warrior neighbor societies, keeps them strong and fighting, and so, beating their children is a “good” thing, because what could be more “good” than surviving the bloodthirsty apes next door? It is my position that this was our original foray into sculpting our children, the one that worked, that this has always been our proof of the “nurture” principle. The reason the socialization researchers haven’t found their evidence is because they’re looking for something “good,” maybe prosocialization, something like that. Our theory seems to be that parents did something “good” that worked at some point in the past, so now we can’t help but believe in the positive power of “nurturing,” but that it just can’t be found anymore? No, this is the secret: we’ve switched what is generally “good” in our minds between when we started this behavioural adaptation and now.

Now this conversation can take a hard left turn.

Trouble is, it’s still what we believe, deep down: pain is good, stress is good, and a “good” person is an antisocial one.

That is the fascist manifesto.

I think it’s all our built-in manifesto, or perhaps it’s only built into our cultures, or the parasitic social meme, but that in peacetime we live in a sort of balance, and when war and/or fascism looms, the balance has been lost and a sort of a positive feedback loop results. When that violence-masking consequences meme takes over, when peaceful memes fade, then we become caught responding to all problems with a single answer, the consequences. I can’t say why it may ever not happen with this model, but it seems clear that when the problems you are trying to solve are antisociability, then bringing the consequences only makes it worse. People start to get angry, so they lash out, angering one another further, and we get the picture: it’s a race to the bottom. It’s Jacob’s Ladder, but the stuff’s in the water. But this is fascism, and this makes everything that the current administration does make sense. Antisocializing is the purpose behind all their trolling, both rhetorical and legislatively homicidal.

Pain is good, stress is good, and a “good” person is an antisocial one.

Again, true enough and important in our evolving and aboriginal situation, so we believe it, deep down. This is how the president has gotten a pass so far: the strongman, the disciplinarian, the authoritarian promises to make things “good” with exactly the meme’s meanings and he is delivering, daily. We are confused, we can’t glean his meanings, what is it we’re supposed to do differently so he stops with the threats and punitive bills? It doesn’t matter, they are using the abuse as evolution uses it, to drive us to madness, violence, and war. It is antisocialism as bare as it can be: no-one can make the sense in it. The only operative thing must be the subtext, the abuse, the fear, and the bad feelings. No matter where it comes from, if we receive stress, we must unload it somewhere, whether we want to or not, so this administration’s torments drive even the pacifists inexorably closer to madness and therefore to war.

It was indeed shocking when American evangelical Christians continued to support the now-president after the recordings of him bragging to the reporter about his casual sexual abuse came out, but there’s a lesson in it. Sure, on the face of it, sexism, plain and simple, but sexism serves antisocialization when that is the dominant social meme and not the other way about, this president clearly hates women, but there’s more – he only like white people too. If the white folks like the evangelicals want their strongman, their white warrior king to fight the brown tide, then his accusers, the women who came forward to attest to his predatory behaviour must also be punished, shunned, shamed and so antisocialized. They were abused already (all we know about them, abused by the now-president), but not abused enough, because they were trying to hurt the white warrior king’s chances for election, they were positioned against the hoped-for race war, they were peaceniks, weak links that wartime cannot afford. Abuse solves everything. As Rich Harris described among the Yanomamo (and other warrior societies, I think), boys who do not fight are tormented until they do or they die; it’s antisocial or dead in warrior societies, and either result for Forty-five’s accusers would serve the war effort better than holding their strongman to the law.

It’s not a happy story, but happy stories, like our metaphor about consequences bringing civilization, make for unhappy realities. We can hate and revile, we can call the voters who invited fascism into the light names like evil and such – I mean, it’s hard not to, same as it is for them, social groups are almost all human beings have for morality – but we need to understand what’s at work too. This isn’t just politics, or the adversarial courtroom process, I mean it is, it’s metaphors in competition – but it’s also real life. Maybe if we get a little closer to it, the truth can settle the argument.

 

Jeff

Mar. 18th., 2016

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Seven – the ‘Abuse Truth.’

Here’s the way I’ve been expressing what I consider to be the dominant social construct/metaphor/meme around our parenting:

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

And I’ve tried to make the point that each of the myriad of things we humans learn are not all survival/genetic continuance issues and that the true function of the consequences is not to teach which fork to use for which part of the meal, but to create a general antisociability, that this enhanced aggression is or was a mechanism for human reproductive success in our aboriginal competitive group situation.

I’ll repeat the bit from Part Five: the causality goes from ‘discipline to make us civilized humans as opposed to wild animals’ to ‘abuse to make us crazy and violent beyond how we are may have been in the wild,’ the change in the text reflecting a change from the meme to something closer to the reality. Hmmm . . .

I began this blog with the goal of describing a new meme, the ‘abuse meme’ and translating it into the form in which I have the old one, but that’s not going to be it, is it? If I feel I’ve penetrated the first meme, then I am living in the ‘abuse meme’ and I can’t see it, perhaps, or more to the point, memes are self-deceptions. We don’t format our truths in the same way.

So. OK. I think I’ve spent enough time in theory, we get the idea, right? I know, I’ve been trying to play you all to some degree, trying to lure you in with cold language and talk about our distant past, I’ve been trying to get you to buy into the theory structure and hoping not to scare you off with the content. Where the rubber meets the road with this theory things get personal, because nothing can be more personal. Basically, AST is the theory that we are all child abusers, so it’s not going to be instantly popular, but here’s what it means: the whole world is upside-down and backwards.

It means that when we bring the consequences, people get meaner.

It means when we try to spank our kids into “being good” we are hurting them in such a way that they are more likely, not less, to wind up in the criminal justice system.

It means that the “consequences” of the criminal justice system will statistically increase convicts’ antisocial feelings and behaviour rather than ameliorate it.

It means that the more we try to control our children and so ourselves by these means, the more antisocial we become and the further away our ostensible goals of peace and “civilization” get.

It means that somewhere right around half of the time, your “good” kid started the fight, because you made him that kind of good.

Don’t think I think I’m offering something simple or possible here. I’m not clear on what can ever be done about it. It describes a détente, right? The Persians had best keep beating their children if they want them to be tough enough to fight the Americans, who make no secret that they’re beating theirs. So, it’s problematic – but it’s closer to the truth and that’s my social group, truth. It doesn’t keep you warm and there’s no safety in its numbers, but then, it doesn’t require that you kill the members of the other groups either, only their lies and misunderstandings. And this is what I think is the truth, despite that it leaves me out of every human social group on Earth: what is “good” and what is “bad” can change depending who you are and what your circumstances might be. Our consequences – beatings, mostly throughout our long history and pre-history – don’t make our children “good,” unless the sort of good we’re after is what the only evidence shows it to be: antisocial feelings and behaviours, an increased capacity for violence.

To perhaps conclude this series then, upside-down and backwards and all:

We know the obvious truth, deep down, that we are born among family and so, born pre-disposed to loving and caring for those around us. We know, in our heart-of hearts, that Christian original sin or any version of it is part of a meme, a false origin story for our species, that no-one really believes it, yet we live inside the consequences metaphor which would seem to require that we are “better” as hurt, angry, beaten children or adults than we would have otherwise been. Of course, this ‘how we might otherwise have been’ idea is un-thought, it’s in the realm of fantasy, where we don’t have to imagine exactly how we might all be “worse” without our beatings, and of course, where it can be “worse” than any specific thing we might imagine. I would ask this fantasy, the idea of us, even worse: really? Worse than some of the stuff the beaten children of the world have brought us, war, persecution, genocide? What could be worse?

Not rhetorical for a change. What’s worse, the fear is not of different things, those scourges are bad enough for anybody. What would be worse is only that we are too nice, that we are unbeaten and so un-tempered and we suffer the genocide rather than performing it. That is our worry, that is really what this consequences stuff is about. It’s also why America is not signing onto the Rights of the Child and why stopping “corporal punishment” is impossible, it’s game theory, a disarmament thing. Again, a détente, but more to the point, it adds up to a sort of a choice. Our strategy to never suffer genocide is to be geared towards committing it instead, and childhood for humans is an inoculation against passivity. There’s no hope in game theory, and I am not a proponent of it or of the ‘deep roots of war’ narrative. * The hope for me is in this, that I think I’ve at least figured it out, and if we can know that antisocialization is what our consequences gets us, then we are at the start of a long climb – but at least we have a real mountain and not a boundless, unconscious one.

It must be a global thing, and I think any such movement to react to this truth will need to take some good science on, something better than either psychology or the life sciences have come up with on their own. This is me, trying to start that, trying to start something.

 

Jeff

Mar. 16th., 2017

 

*AST suggests a control and a variability in our love of war that is more in line with the modern view of an enmeshed and interactive blend of “nature” and “nurture,” and in its most basic form, AST says we make ourselves more warlike, although it doesn’t postulate our default level of war if we didn’t punish our children.

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Six – Abuse

What I offer as the child-rearing paradigm for groups in conflict is rather bare-bones, I wanted to go after the core of it; I really think to change anything we kind of have to change it all, all the way up from the bottom, because everything is what it is in relation to everything else, and you can’t really change anything if there are connected things that aren’t allowed to change also. Truth to tell though, there are a lot of other ideas around the central metaphor, in supporting roles, like the previously mentioned Christian original sin, one of the theories we have come up with to explain the necessity of the consequences. Others theories attempt to explain why sometimes the causality in the meme pans out and sometimes it does not, ideas about the differences between consequences, discipline, punishment, and abuse.

They’re pretty much all rubbish, I mean, these hypotheses pretty much only make sense within the paradigm, within the paradigm’s special rules of logic.

From AST, all of those things are the same, and so the differences don’t explain anything big. It’s what’s common that explains the big things. The central idea of AST means that the worst, most despised and illegal of the four – abuse – is the operative one anyways, so the differences disappear. Inasmuch as the other three words include a measure of abuse, then that is the degree to which they serve the primary function of antisocializing the recipients and what marks the gradient between them is something secondary or further downstream. It’s not about the education value either, they simply appear to be the euphemisms required by the meme, really bringing no added value, none of the additional specificity we would expect from synonyms.

I hope this point isn’t unavailable to a possible reader who hasn’t bought in yet, one who doesn’t like AST so far and identifies with the consequences, uh, approach, that each metaphor has its application and its prerequisites. Per the consequences meme, the results of our methods are positive things, the kids get ‘better,’ whereas with the AST or the ‘abuse meme’ perhaps, the results of our methods are what negative experiences produce most immediately and simply: stress, and pain, and the need to pass it on. The rule that positive things ensue from ‘discipline’ while negative things follow from ‘abuse’ requires that the two causes be different animals, even opposites, and this arrangement is stressful to support because the two things can appear identical to the naked eye.

So AST says it’s all one thing, abuse, meaning negative experience, by any other name. The other terms, I think we can pick one to reference, let’s say ‘punishment,’ and postulate the meme’s meaning: so what is punishment?

A technical sort of definition is this: it’s the imposition of an aversive by an authorized person to modify a behaviour, but that’s the logical kernel only, the principle of deterrent. What is it we think we’re doing when the deterrent has failed, when we are bringing the consequences? I’m afraid I must seem to be hurling accusations here, because my theory is we don’t really go that far, we don’t really break it down and we don’t really have a concrete idea of the mechanics of it. It’s always one of those things, ‘logical’ within the meme, something like ‘it hurts, so you learn’ – the “so” in there appearing to provide the causation. So how about if we speculate about it now, if we really haven’t before?

I have a pet theory, although  I don’t suppose it’s critical to AST.

We think we’re hobbling our miscreants.

It’s something like it, right, at least analogous? When we specify and administer a punishment for an unwanted behaviour, we seem to think that we are able to inhibit specific behaviours, like we can break a leg to cure running away, we hope we can break something, hurt something to make the behaviour, uh . . . unavailable in the future. Further to that, it’s a mental leg we’re hoping to break – that is to say, something in the brain.

It’s a thought, some idea like that would seem to be behind our discipline – again, if ideas were, or if those ideas were the salient train of thought. It’s not that far off, either, so close that the confusion is pretty forgivable. We do indeed break something in the brain with this abuse, it’s just that the process isn’t as surgical as we hope; we’re breaking more than just the part required for one-off, individual behaviours and I’m afraid the damage is a little more general than that. So, rather than our hoped for conditioning against certain behaviours, what we get is this general antisocialization. This is why antisocialization theory holds the effects of abuse to be the true and evolved function in human lives, because while the ostensible goals of our punishments are often unrealized, the antisocialization is accomplished in a reliable and understandably causative way.

Another way to say it is, if the true point of our discipline is to antisocialize, to make us all meaner soldiers, then abuse has always been the point and no distinction need be drawn between the “positive” practices of discipline and consequences and the “negative” experiences of abuse. By AST, it’s all abuse, and so we have crossed the line from nurturing (prosocializing) to damage (antisocializing) with the first pat on the bum. From a parenting perspective, while there is plenty of work to do, the question of what is discipline and what is abuse disappears. Truth is simplicity, in a sense, sometimes. I know I’ve been pussyfooting around it, but that’s the message.

When we punish our kids to make them better, better means antisocial, pre-configured for conflict, that’s the kind of better “consequences” gets us. When we bring it too hard or our kids just get some sort of unlucky, the damage we see, the madness, or crime, violence, self-harm, etc. that we see is not something going unforeseeably wrong, something happening in a new direction, this is simply more antisocialization than we wanted, simply too much of this “good” thing.

It’s simpler, when you get it, almost a single force or a single principle to replace two sorts of knowledge we’ve had to compartmentalize to get on with, the apparently opposing “principles” of the socializing influences of structure and discipline and the damaging influences of abuse. And it seems pretty straightforward what we’d do if we saw it, if we really let it sink in.

Jeff

Mar. 11th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Five. Unintended Consequences

OK, the blog I decided was part four for logical order, I wrote that a month or two ago, but I wrote part three over the last few days. Things took a sudden turn for the dark there, I’m afraid, so if you saw the one about what we think we think about ourselves before and have also just come here with part three freshly in mind, I apologize for it, especially for the emotional slap at the end. That was uncalled for, but what can I say? I’m not editing it out, it’s me. I am uncalled for. It probably cost me most of my potential buyers there, though. I don’t know why I do it, why I must make listening to me even harder than it is, why I so badly need not only to be appreciated, but at my worst.

I’m sorry. This one will be different, I think.

I know I’ve turned the common wisdom over with this, the causality goes from ‘discipline to make us civilized humans as opposed to wild animals’ to ‘abuse to make us crazy and violent beyond how we are may have been in the wild,’ and sure, that’s on the dark side of the spectrum, but let’s turn it over a bit, try some different angles. AST is a giving the devil his due sort of idea, but what if we take it on and then argue, see if this devilish idea can survive giving God his due.

I’ve said the point of human adult on child violence isn’t that the child learns better how to live indoors and not break dishes, that it is rather the effects of abuse that made us tougher and more successful than the other apes and other human species, but we do mange to get on indoors and not break things, and we do show more emotional range than may be required if war and conflict were all there was to being human, don’t we? So the existence of the meme may guarantee the ‘consequences’ get dished out, but looking at it the other way ‘round, the sense of the meme kind of insures that we spend a lot of time driving our kids and speaking to them, giving instructions and commands. From AST, in the coldest, economic, evolutionary psychology terms you could say these are primarily excuses for the abuse that we need to compete with the abusive neighbors and their kids – but all those lessons, perhaps a sort of unintended consequence of our warrior code was that all that teaching and talking took on a life of its own. All that learning may have been of less immediate, survival level importance than the antisocialization lessons, but we have studied and we have learned because by the metaphor by which we are raised, we know what happens when we don’t get our homework done.

AST describes the same world, but the causation is flipped: they didn’t give us the strap to teach us math, they challenged us with math so they could give us the strap! Bad news is, we got the more visceral, biological lesson, and we’ve been antisocialized. Good news is, we learned math. Oh, no, I know, it sounds dark again, and just backwards, same world with a bad attitude, but it’s not. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, things don’t make sense. From the existing place, the metaphor of consequences, all we understand is the part about the math and we don’t understand what it is we do and how we create ourselves in a violent vision of how we need to be. It means we can never really understand abuse or conflict, and that’s a bit of a big deal. I’ll try to make the case in the next part. For now, we’ll let this one stand as having said that our human civilization seems to be a secondary effect, a sort of unintended consequence of our self-antisocializing ways, and of course, I don’t think anyone thought becoming technical and civilized was a goal, I don’t think Bill Hicks’ version has been positively peer reviewed. I think science assumes our bizarre behaviour to be an unintended consequence of something or other – so maybe it’s of this antisocializing thing.

It’s not out of line with the general idea that we are the most complex challenge we face and so that it is we that have been the evolutionary pressure that produced this large bubble of a brain and skull, is it?

 

Jeff

March 10th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

AST– A Better Metaphor, Part Two

If we consider what I’ve labelled as the ‘consequences meme’ that captures the most common parenting methods and attitudes and try to glean what goals it may serve, the first and most basic thing offered by it appears to be control. Here’s the way I’ve been expressing it so far:

. . . that story, about what must happen and how consequences make it happen and about how what must happen might never happen without our consequences . . .

Clearly, whatever must happen, whatever the consequences, and considering that it won’t happen by itself, the theme is control. If we bring the consequences, the meme says we get things the way we want, right? That’s the meme, the story we tell ourselves, and the form of the meme may be sane – sane, meaning a calculation that is possible to make, not that the answer is correct, only that we are not attempting to divide by zero or something – and that suffices, again, within this metaphor and using the metaphor’s special rules of logic. One way the power of the meme is evident is that when real, specific things are inserted into the form –

. . . this story, about eating this food and how a pat on the butt makes it happen and about how this food might never get eaten without that pat on the butt . . .

– that clear, true examples that prove the meme are relevant, evidence for, while clear, true examples that contradict it somehow lack the relevance to change the conversation. Whether a given consequence works out or not, that is success or failure of our consequences, of our attempted application of the meme, but the meme has accomplished its goals if we simply still believe it in either case: a meme is a bias. It’s almost the application of science, or big data, because the meme insures that we are not always changing our minds with every situation, that we stay the course regardless of ‘anecdotal’ individual experiences that would appear to disprove the idea. Almost, you’ll note. It’s analogous to science, but the difference is the criteria: again, the meme serves our goals, not necessarily science or truth.

The function of this meme in our lives would appear to be to give us a sense of control, one that is bolstered against our experiences of things often being out of our control. The function of that sense of control is that we bring the consequences and trust in them implicitly, often to the point that we don’t monitor the results and don’t adjust our methods. The function of the consequences?

That is the mystery, the truth behind the metaphor, and the basis for a better one. To describe that, I’m going to back up, take a different tack. Not a secret, I’ve said it a few times this year, but I want to let this out in bite size pieces. Metaphors are too big too deal with in one sitting.

 

Jeff

Mar. 5th., 2017

Here’s the whole series:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/04/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-one/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/05/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-two/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/07/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-three/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/human-nature-or-let-me-tell-you-what-we-think-of-us/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/10/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-five/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/11/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-six-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/16/ast-a-better-metaphor-part-seven-the-abuse-truth/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/03/18/the-good-the-bad-and-the-reality-a-better-metaphor-part-eight/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

and a bonus nipple-twister:

https://abusewithanexcuse.com/2017/02/23/ast-and-child-sexual-abuse/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true